With their cars bouncing off the outside wall at Darlington Raceway—and off each other—Chase Briscoe held off heavy favorite Kyle Busch over the closing laps on Thursday for an emotionally-charged victory in the rain-delayed Toyota 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“This is the biggest day of my life after the toughest day of my life,” said a tearful Briscoe, whose wife Marissa recently miscarried in the first trimester of her pregnancy.
Briscoe drove with focused determination as Busch tracked him down after the final restart on Lap 139 of 147, after Michael Annett’s spin in Turn 4 caused the fifth caution of the day on Lap 132 and spoiled the race for Justin Allgaier. The 33-year-old veteran from Illinois had passed Briscoe for the lead on Lap 130 but gave it back to the driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Ford on pit road, thanks to a masterful stop by Briscoe’s crew.
Busch surged past Allgaier into second place soon after the final restart and spent the next five laps in hot pursuit. Busch drove to the inside to pass Briscoe for the lead on Lap 146, but the 25-year-old crossed over to the inside of the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion and retook the top spot as the cars traded sheet metal on the final lap.
Briscoe held on to win by .086 seconds and was overcome with emotion after he took the checkered flag. The victory was Briscoe’s second of the season, his first at Darlington and the fourth of his young Xfinity Series career.
“This is for my wife,” Briscoe said after climbing from his car with tears streaming down his face. “This is the hardest week I’ve ever had to deal with. God is so good. Even when I took the lead with 50 to go, I was crying inside of the race car.
“Just emotionally wasn't there at all. I’m obviously happy. Ford Racing is going to Victory Lane, but this is more than a race win. This is the biggest day of my life after the toughest day in my life, and to be able to beat the best there is, is so satisfying.
“This is what my family needed, and this is what my wife needed.”
Briscoe prevented Busch from adding to his career-record total of 96 wins. With only three starts remaining in the series this season under NASCAR rules limiting his participation to five races, Busch will have to wait at least until 2021 to reach his stated goal of 100 victories.
“I had a shot to put on an exciting show there at the end,” said Busch, who matched Briscoe with 45 laps led and handily won Stage 2 before suffering a pit road speeding penalty that sent him to the rear of the field for a restart on Lap 97. “I knew being on the inside into (Turn) 1 wasn’t good. He got such a bad run off of (Turn) 4, I had no choice.
“I thought about blitzing the outside of (Turns) 3 and 4, but I knew he would just go in on the bottom and slide to the top and plug it for me. I really didn’t know what to do. Just tried what I tried. It wasn’t going to be enough. We weren’t close enough. He was super loose, but I had no way of getting close to him anyway. So we’ll take second, I guess. We have no other choice.”
After the speeding infraction, Busch had worked his way up to fifth by the time Annett spun. He was third off pit road for the final restart before making the closing charge that fell just short.
Allgaier came home third in the event, which was postponed from Tuesday night because of rain. Austin Cindric ran fifth, and Noah Gragson, who led a race-high 46 laps, was fifth after starting from the pole and winning the first 45-lap stage wire-to-wire.
Daniel Hemric, Ryan Sieg, Ross Chastain, rookie Harrison Burton and Justin Haley closed out the top 10.